14 May 1999

WHY UNIT HAS A WINNING LOOK

PRACTICAL pig keeping combines with a modern approach to team work and staff training at the 1998 MLC pig award winners Cherry Tree Farm, Watton, Norfolk.

Pig production manager Jim Burling says that paying attention to feeding, condition scoring and sow service conditions will ensure good results continue at Cherry Tree Farm.

Including the Cherry Tree Farm unit, Mr Burling has 8000 sows to oversee – 6000 outdoors and 2000 indoors – all owned by Bowes of Norfolk.

Four men and a manager run the farm, where 600 breeding sows produce 30kg weaners for Bowess contract finishing scheme. The unit has expanded gradually, starting with 350 sows in 1981.

Despite greater numbers Mr Burling says that Cherry Tree has produced consistently good figures.

"In the last three months we have been up to 26.3 pigs reared a sow and 25.4 pigs reared a sow for the year ending September 1998."

This success is due to the well co-ordinated five man team run by unit manager Nigel Spalding, says Mr Burling. "We have a nucleus of three staff, together for the last five years, but unfortunately we have now broken this team up and moved two men to management positions in other units."

But new staff should soon be up to speed, he says. "We place a lot of emphasis on training and run an in-house training scheme, covering husbandry and stockmanship for pigs."

Besides providing staff training, the company is also keen to find other ways of boosting production.

"We have boosted numbers of pigs/sow/year by changing and improving service technique. Additionally we use AI, collecting semen from our own boars, processing it and using it on farm.

"We have noticed a pick-up in conception rates and an increase in numbers of piglets born alive using AI and semen from our own boars."

There is a well organised system at Cherry Tree Farm to ensure that performance is maintained. All sows are individually fed until seven weeks after service, when they are floor fed and group housed. "This means we can achieve the right sow body condition before they are group housed."

Piglets are weaned at 24 days into an outdoor kennel system in batches of 40. Three weeks later they are split into groups of 25.

"The kennel system works well, with feed conversion at 1.7kg feed/kg liveweight gain. Kennels are well ventilated, use no gas or electricity and have ample feed area for the pigs.

"We feed the piglets on ad-lib creep for 14 days and then a high quality grower feed until 30kg when they are moved to the contract finishing scheme." &#42